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How businesses can reinvigorate strategic planning

May 13, 2024

For businesses, and people for that matter, the beginning of the calendar year can be a bit of a grind. The holidays have passed, summer vacations are relatively far off and everyone is trying to build momentum for a strong, healthy year.

Amongst all the nose-to-the-grindstone stick-to-itiveness, however, you and your leadership team shouldn’t lose sight of strategic planning. Your competitors probably haven’t, and the business landscape is always shifting in ways large and small. If you’ve let strategic planning slide a bit recently, here are some ways to reinvigorate it.

Push back against procrastination

Ideally, most companies should engage in an active strategic planning initiative at least once a year. This would involve doing research and holding meetings that eventually result in actionable, measurable goals.

However, some businesses may get so caught up in day-to-day operations that strategic planning goes by the wayside. Sometimes, this is a positive sign. Perhaps the company is so busy and profitable that it must focus on maximizing the opportunities at hand.

But it can be dangerous as well. A sudden market shift or disruptive competitor may leave the business flat-footed. Generally, companies shouldn’t let more than three years pass without productively engaging in strategic planning.

Go to your happy place

Because strategic planning is all about the big picture rather than the day-to-day, the process tends to work best when you put the people involved in a fresh setting. This is why the company retreat has long been an iconic undertaking, often depicted in movies and TV shows.

Granted, there is the potential for excessive spending and counterproductive distractions when organizing and holding one of these events. But if planned carefully and undertaken mindfully, getting your strategic planning team out of the office, or away from their computer screens at home, may pay off.

Engage an outside facilitator

Intuitively, it may seem like a business owner or CEO should lead a strategic planning session. And this can certainly be a cost-effective approach. But the objectivity of an outside professional may be worth investing in.

First, a facilitator may be able to better create a “there are no bad ideas” environment. Team members are often more willing to speak freely when they’re not directly addressing the owner or chief executive of the company. Plus, experienced facilitators are usually good at “working the room” (making people feel at ease), as well as adhering to a productive agenda.

Devise an action plan

Strategic planning should never be all talk and no action. Typically, the first session will review the business’s mission (what it does), vision (where it’s going), current financial results, and perhaps some of its recent notable successes and setbacks. It’s critical, however, to be results oriented. This means:

  • Setting several clearly worded goals,
  • Devising reasonable strategies for pursuing those goals, and
  • Identifying the specific objectives that will enable you to accomplish the goals.

One way to ease the pressure of strategic planning is to not try to do everything at once. If you can accomplish the three points above in one session, schedule a follow-up meeting to devise an action plan with a timeline and assigned responsibilities. That plan can then be formally approved by business ownership.

Helpful voices

One last point: Don’t restrict strategic planning to only internal voices. Your professional advisors can also lend their expertise to the process, whether by attending a session or reviewing an action plan. For help with the financial side of strategic planning, contact us.

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